Spend time chatting with Rey Carrion, and you’ll soon discover the nostalgic fondness he has for Oakwood Park. Lorain’s Ward 6 councilman was 12 years old in 1978 when his family moved to the city from Puerto Rico. It didn’t take long for the youngster to embrace all the park had to offer.
“The country and the language were so new to me,” recalls Carrion. “Oakwood Park quickly became the hub of our community. There was something going on there every day of the week — softball tournaments, baseball and basketball games, swimming, tennis, you name it. And then when it got cold, you had ice-skating.
“Sadly,” he adds, “many of those activities went by the wayside.”
But the park is once again a winter wonderland. Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Lorain County and funds raised by The Friends of South Lorain — a grassroots organization Carrion created to nurture civic pride and improvement — the outdoor 100-foot-wide-by-200-foot long skating rink installed earlier this year has become the centerpiece of cold-weather fun.
“We wanted to make sure residents could use it free of charge, and looked for ways to provide free skates to all who need them,” Carrion says.
The Friends of South Lorain raised $500 for the project, which the Community Foundation of Lorain County matched with a $500 grant. Additional funding was provided through the Foundation’s partnership with In Our Backyards (ioby) and the Hispanic Fund.
Special events held at the park last year brought the total raised to $2,300. The councilman says he is grateful to longtime friend Ricardo Hernandez, a manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods at Crocker Park, who helped him select 75 pairs of skates in a variety of sizes.
“So many people couldn’t wait for the rink to open,” Carrion says. “They were so thankful to have something good to engage in with their children.”
Oakwood Park also sets the stage for summer events that include free concerts and movie nights. The park’s outdoor swimming pool is also undergoing renovation and, as of now, is slated to open by Memorial Day 2023. Funds are being raised to purchase pool passes for underserved children in the area.
“There are over 310,000 residents in 34 municipalities in Lorain County,” reflects Brittany Lovett, marketing and communications officer for the Community Foundation of Lorain County. “Not everyone needs a $50,000 grant to complete a project. We want organizations to understand that no matter the size of the undertaking, we’re your Community Foundation and are here for you.”